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The Dream is damned and Dreamer too if Dreaming's all that Dreamers do.
Updated: 4 hours 53 min ago

OODA Double Reversal

Tue, 2016-04-26 05:59
Just read a really terrible book purporting to be about safety. Ignorant, repetitive and pseudo-profound. According to the back cover, the guy had a resume that sounded like a god, but there were basic words used incorrectly, over half the book was word-for-word repeats of the author’s talking points. And some of the advice…. whew. Worried about freezing, fear or stressed-induced bad decisions? “Simply” divorce yourself from emotion. No idea why I never thought of that…Anyway, pissy rant over. He had a lot of emphasis on a weirdly misunderstood version of Boyd’s OODA loop, and it reminded me of a long ago conversation with Maija (Maija of The Liar, the Cheat and the Thief fame). The conversation was about using the OODA loop as a framework to explore and teach personal safety and some other things. The conversation was almost forgotten and the bones had never somehow got written down. So here goes, and let’s see if I can make it make sense.O is for observe. On your end— see and sense as much as you can. When static, try to be in places that maximize your vision—elevation, looking from small apertures through big apertures, position to take advantage of reflections and shadows. And use all of your senses. Practice consciously listening, smelling, feeling the wind and temperature changes. Vibrations through the floor. Learn to sense not only things, but significant negatives. Like when the crickets stop chirping or the target stops snoring or the steam is not rising from the coffee cup.The reversal: These are the same things you want to deny others. Minimize your visibility. Watch from camouflaged places. Looking from small through big apertures puts the threat in the position of doing the opposite. Remember that stalking in the wild is about not being seen (heard, smelled) but stalking in an urban setting is about not being noticed. Blend. You want to observe the world, but to maximize your freedom of action, you want to be unobserved.O is for Orient. Doesn’t matter what you see if you can’t figure it out. On your end, this is about studying people. How they move, think and act. In groups and alone. Musashi’s advice about know the way of all arts. understanding how taxi drivers, construction workers, criminal, doctors, lawyers, etc see the world. It is a constant process of learning. Take a good tracking class and an entire world of perception and understanding opens up. Riff off the elements of that tracking class and you can learn to see the emotional tracks left by certain events.And denying this is a skill as well, and there are at least three ways to ruin someone else’s orient stage. You can simply deny them information. Nondescript clothes. Lack of facial expression. Basically, no obvious hooks.Or you can confuse the threat by offering contradictory information. Long ago when the first crop of entrepreneurs started wearing tennis shoes with their business suits, there were news articles trying to figure out what it meant. You can have your words and actions diametrically opposed. You can wear a RTKBA t-shirt with fuzzy bunny slippers.Or you can take absolute control of the Orient process and supply a convenient pigeonhole. One friend has long frizzy hair and wears tie-dye and a kilt. He’s immediately dismissed as a harmless burned-out old hippy. I can wear the tweed jacket with leather elbow pages and copper-rimmed glasses and be immediately dismissed as a harmless academic. Or I can put on my middle-aged tourist costume. If you’re so big and imposing you will be noticed, adopt the body language of the big, goofy, harmless guy. JA is amazing at that.D is for Decide. You want to maximize your decision speed, which means minimize your hesitations. Comfort level with your physical skills is one of the keys, of course. But I also find a clear order of priorities to be useful. I know what is worth getting involved in and what isn’t; what I will and won’t tolerate. Truly understanding what is important speeds up your reaction time.Also, courage. Courage can be tough to define beyond 'acting despite fear' but I mean a special kind. I mean the confidence to know that you can and will recover from fuck-ups. We all make mistakes all the time. When you are afraid of mistakes or the consequences of those mistakes, you hesitate. When you deeply believe that you can and will recover, making mistakes is less a thing to be feared and thus not worth hesitating over.To prevent others from deciding can be a long-term or short-term route. Long term, if you have the right relationship, you can induce learned helplessness either globally or in a particular field. When someone gets punished no matter what they do, the only intelligent strategy is to do nothing. That induced passivity is called “Learned Helplessness.”If you correct your students no matter what they do, you are inducing helplessness in that particular field. If you are in a relationship where you are wrong no matter what you do, you are being groomed for helplessness.Short term, most of the ways to prevent decision involve adding more information to the equation. Very few people are disciplined enough to make a timely decision when there is a possibility of critical information on the way. So most of the short-term methods for paralysis involve manipulating one of the Os, Observe or Orient. All of your actions are information (Observation) so purposeful movement prevents decision. If your purposeful movement is hard to read, (“What is he doing with that cat?”) the threat can’t access the Decide stage until the question is resolved (Orient.)Recognition of available time (what Gordon Graham calls “Discretionary time”) is a secondary skill that plays a powerful part in the O/D stages. When people envision applying Boyd’s work, they often focus on speeding up the loop, “getting inside the opponent’s loop.” Sometimes recognizing that there is no immediate need to act is a super-power. While others are frantically trying to respond, you can gather information and resources and make a better plan. Often, if your calmness is hard to read, it will invoke rash action in the threat. Always let your enemies make mistakes if they are inclined to do so.A is for Act. Part of this is possibility for action. Whenever possible, place yourself for maximum options and freedom of movement— have multiple escape routes, see that none of your limbs or weapons are hindered. There’s no point in having a weapon you can’t access. At closer range, this is the kind of stuff we play with InFighting. In order to deliver a strike, you need power, a target and a weapon, but you also need empty space to move the weapon through. This can range from managing the voids infighting to creating empty space to exploit while grapplingAnother part of Act is having a physical skill to apply. It doesn’t matter how well you can OO or D if you don’t have the necessary skills to execute your decision. And it’s not just skills, it’s comfort level with skills. Knowing how to do something because you’ve read about it or watched videos helps if and only if the situation gives you enough time to move from the cognitive to the physical plane. Reading about how to make a shelter can work, because hypothermia can take hours to kill you. Watching videos of knife defenses, on the other hand, is almost if not completely useless. Physical skills must not just be practiced, but played with. It’s the only way to cross that gap into adaptability and access under pressure.Note- Operant conditioning can skip the two middle steps of the OODA loop entirely, but conditioning correctly is pretty stringent and it only works on very simple responses to relatively clear-cut situations.Efficient action hinges on having a broad range of applicable skills that you have tested. Ideally skills you have tested to the extent that your lizard, monkey and human brains all trust the skills.It doesn’t hurt to make a habit of decisive action, either.The reversal. You can deny the opponent’s ability to act by controlling his avenues of movement, filling the space either he or his attacks must move through, by physically disrupting his ability to act (injury, handcuffing, etc.) by disrupting his base mentally or physically, by blocking his access to resources (tools, funds, people, advice, information…)
Overall, maximize your adaptability (skills, awareness) and resources. Minimize your opponent's.

Animal Farm

Sun, 2016-04-24 15:51
Two observations, unrelated to each other except for the barnyard metaphors.

1) I have officially decided to quit making fun of the chi-meisters. You know, the guys who send their students spinning with a look or stun them with a gesture. The ones demonstrating and teaching no-touch knockouts. As some of you know, I've offered my support to a few of the big names if they'd just come with me on public transportation, let me pick out a couple of subjects who had no idea who they were or what was supposed to happen and then knock them out. Should be easy, right? Every other way of knocking people out is easier by stealth, without the big show... so far, no answers.

Anyway, I've decided to exercise gratitude and see the chi-misters for what they are and appreciate what they contribute. The rest of us are trying to make people stronger and tougher. They are the ones with the foresight to create a new generation of victims. Think about it-- it's not about the instructors, it's about the students. Always has been. And these guys are breeding the human equivalent of fainting goats.

2) When we take a young creature and lock it up, remove it from challenge, deny it any exercise or even the mild challenge and irritation of sun and wind, we call that veal. It gets fed a rich diet, treated like a baby long after it should be. It's straight up animal abuse. Tasty, tasty animal abuse, but there's something fundamentally not right about it. We know that babies-- animal or human-- need to move and play to be what they are. And we all know that growth in anything comes from challenge.

People demanding places where only one opinion can be heard, where they will be shielded from any thoughts or ideas that might actually make them work, people demanding a right to a perpetual comfort zone-- they are insisting on a right to be veal. Mental veal. What they can so clearly see as animal abuse in the outside world, they are demanding. Or begging for. Begging for the resources and demanding the right to be soft, helpless and probably tasty.

One of the poignant/funny scenes in the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy was the beef who was bred to want to be eaten. Well, the american educational system has gone one better. We have trained our children not just to be the mental equivalent of veal, but to demand their own helplessness as a right.

There is no desire for weakness in our nature. That has to be taught. So maybe there is more of a connection between the fainting goat breeders and the veal producers-- it is learned behavior, and the product of systems that ingrain weakness as both a behavior and a virtue.

Think about this-- who hates and fears you enough that they must brainwash you to believe that weakness is a virtue?

Course Correction

Fri, 2016-04-22 16:46
Huh. Fell into a trap. This blog started as an anonymous place to unpack some stuff in my head. To think about events and ideas out loud and on paper. Or screens. Whatever. To get out of my head.

The anonymous part is done. Too late. Might go and start from scratch elsewhere, but not yet.

Here's the deal, I've been writing less because I've been trying to be a writer. Classic trap. Trying to say the right thing, of the right relevance, in the right way...

That's not what this corner of cyberspace is for. It's not for marketing or branding or useful insight or polished anything. Time to let it be a little more internal vomit (writers would say stream of consciousness) and about what fascinates me, not what I think would interest readers.

Since the ICITAP contract, I've been playing inside my comfort zone with maybe 3/5 of my life. That's not me. Time to cut closer to the bone in writing and in real life.

More to follow.

VioDy West

Thu, 2016-03-24 16:24
VioDy West in Oakland is coming up in three weeks, and Keelin, the coordinator, ordered me to write about it. So here goes--

Long ago, somewhere in the mists of time, Kasey Keckeisen, a SWAT leader, sniper and training coordinator thought it would be really cool to have a couple of his favorite SD writers come out to his neck of the woods and play. One was Marc MacYoung. The other was me. Kasey was an experienced officer and a lifetime martial artist, so he wasn't just a host, he was a third instructor.

It was the seminar where we unveiled the first public ConCom class. Civilians got to train with the local SWAT in environmental fighting. It became an annual thing. It's also why I am no longer allowed to name things. (Come on, if you are doing a workshop on Violence Dynamics, you'd call it the VD Clinic too, right?) Over the years, people who originally came as students have stepped up to teach sections-- Randy King taught counter assault and Dillon Beyer* taught power generation last year in Minnesota, and Querencia Fitness did classes on functional strength and training despite age and injuries.

This all happened in Minnesota...

Last year, Keelin suggested a Bay Area version. I assumed (my mistake) Kasey and Marc wouldn't be available. Kasey is a full time officer with limited vacation time, Marc had a host of other concerns. So I floated the idea to two of my favorite people, Terry Trahan and Kathy Jackson. They were in. Then miracles happened and Marc and Kasey could make it as well. So this is what we have:
A six-day seminar covering physical skills including: leverage, power, targeting, fighting by touch, using the environment, ground survival...
Practical skills like ConCom and people watching in the field...
And a few lectures, like threat assessment and legal articulation...
And even a range day, led by Kathy Jackson

Five instructors, and maybe some guests. I know of people flying in from Sweden (Toby!) The UK (Anna!) and Cypress (Dan!) There will be separate OG classes by request... (If you know what OGs are in this context and you are one, contact me for special pricing.)

And the sixth day-- people watching. Small groups. You get to see how a sniper sees architecture and space, how a former criminal sizes up marks, some other stuff I won't go into here.

Keelin has set up a website with more details and sign-ups.
This will be fun.

* Look at the VioDy NextGen on that link.

"In the Real World..."

Thu, 2016-03-17 13:04
Thought for the day.
In the martial arts and self-defense, you hear a lot of crap about what will and won't work in the "real world." Everything is as real as it is, and no more. All things are what they are, and all only extrapolate so far. Written about all that before.

So everything happens in the real world, whether it's on the mat, in  a cage, around a poker table, over a chessboard, or in a mass holding cell. None of this is happening in the virtual world. (Yes, I know, you can play video versions of all of these, quit being cute and pay attention.)

Here's the thought. Instead of defining what the "real" world is, look at all the things we say aren't the real world and you notice that they all have the same things in common. When someone says, "that's not the real world," what they mean is a place or endeavor where:

  1. You know the rules and 
  2. The rules are the way the game is really played
Monopoly or chess-- everyone plays by the same rules and if you cheat you forfeit. But college grad goes into business, goes into his first negotiation and gets played--College grad: "That wasn't fair! He lied!"Boss: "Welcome to the real world."
This is a subconscious distinction for people. If it's predictable, it's not the real world. If it's predictable, it doesn't count. And of course it all does count, but only so far. I'm not arguing for the truth of this, mind you, just pleased to have found the words for a nearly universal unconscious distinction. 
This does have some implications.
Even in games with rules, things are never predictable, but the rules are there to limit the unpredictability. In a match, no matter the sport, you can't be sure what your opponent will do, but you can be pretty sure of what he won't do. The boxer won't kick, the the judoka won't punch you in the face, the fencer won't pull a gun.
We teach children through games with rules and the children are punished for cheating. Because we want them to grow up and not be cheaters. We want to condition them to believe that cheating is punished, because your brain equates punished with "doesn't work." This allows them to get along with other adults. This keeps people from screwing each other over. It also makes them patsies when someone else understands that the rules are artificial.
Yes. Artificial. Rules are not real, they are magical spells used to control the behavior of others. And like magic, rules only work on believers.
Because we start kids on rules and social conditioning so young, they all go into the real world carrying around a personal list of largely unconscious personal rules. Rules that control and limit their options, artificial restraints on behavior that can be used against them by anyone who doesn't share the same internal rules.
The fifth implication. The real world is the place where, often, cheating isn't punished, but rewarded. This is the elephant in the room. Cheating works. In the real world.
Unless someone better makes it not work.

Triple, Again

Thu, 2016-03-10 20:52
Mac says most things can be broken down in threes. Speed, surprise, violence of action. Power, speed precision. Move, shoot, communicate. Awareness, initiative, permission. It works quite often, and sometimes it doesn't. I guess the rule is to never fall in love with a model to the extent that you try to force the world to fit the model.

Another one came up last week. I'd been asked to advice a young man on designing a defensive tactics program for a certain profession. Have to be a little obtuse here because there are programs that exist for this profession, but no one (and I mean no one) who actually works in that profession is happy with the current programs. The programs I have seen and heard about are classic "liability reduction" training, designed for the express purpose of keeping organizations from being sued, regardless of whether what is taught actually works.

I'd been thinking about it for weeks leading up to the meeting. These are people doing important things with small budgets, a lot of scrutiny, and very limited training time. And whatever program comes out of this, if one does, will have to be effective (or it's not worth my time) but also palatable to the administrations, the media and the public.

Snapped awake the morning of the meeting. When a problem is hard to solve, it's often because you are trying to solve the wrong problem, asking the wrong question or asking the right question in the wrong way. My contacts had been always talked about managing aggressive behavior, and all of their programs failed against assaultive behavior. Duh.

So the triple for this one:

  • Managing aggressive behavior would be the tools, verbal prevention before, verbal and possible physical redirection during. Qualitatively different from...
  • Managing assaultive behavior. Under attack, your solution won't be verbal. Always good to augment physical responses with verbal skills, both to direct the threat and for the benefit of witnesses. But when someone is trying to stab you, you don't have the time to try to calm his mindset. The third though...
  • Managing destructive behavior. Including self-destructive, but the difference between Assaultive and destructive is the focus. No matter how violent someone is being, you have an entirely different suite of options if he's focused on someone or something else.
Nothing new here. The physical, interpersonal and tactical skills for each type are pretty well known. But I haven't divided things this way before. And I think it's telling that multiple systems shared the same failure point and it was a simple recognition that teaching people how to handle aggressive people won't translate to handling an assault.
More came up in the brainstorming session-- Gordon Graham's discretionary time concept and how it applies. Training methodologies for improvising and adapting under pressure. Power dynamics that will have to modeled in the class before they can be mirrored in the mission. An ethical framework that ties a lot together. Gotta love curriculum development.----------------------------------------------------------------
Lots of stuff coming up:
InFighting in Edmonton this weekend (Mar 12-13)InFighting in London, ON next weekend.How to Run Scenarios at Kore Krav Maga in Ashburn, VA (April 9-10)VioDy West in Oakland (This will be a big one!) April 12-17 Plus Alaska and Pennsylvania.


Fri, 2016-03-04 20:05
One of the things that makes communication difficult and some problems hard to solve is that very different things can be the same thing.

I wrote about DV as an example of taxonomies some time ago.
 Antisocial Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder are both different, but they get to the same place, seeing people as tools or toys to be used. And the old saw that "there are many paths to the top of the mountain" ignores the fact that there are actually many mountains, with many different points of view and the path you choose will change how you see the view more than the elevation.

I do believe some people are born unable to see that other people are real. It's an emotional thing and there is a sliding scale to it. At the extreme end, this is like a video game and other people are just pixels. Slightly less intense, many criminals don't feel shame. They just don't get it (See Fleisher's Beggars and Thieves for some corroboration). About half of my friends feel "trust" as an emotion and the others see it as a decision, but with no feeling associated. Which leads me to believe that it is probably possible to scale people's emotional palette.

That was a bit of an aside.
I believe some people are born sociopaths, and essentially don't have the capacity to develop an emotional palette that includes compassion or empathy. I believe a larger number have the capacity but it was never developed-- Babies are born inherently selfish and egocentric and must be taught that other people have feelings just like them. If that teaching fails, the child will be heartless. Sociopath? Functionally, but a very different mechanism.

And one can be placed in an environment where heartlessness is the only effective survival strategy. Humans are adaptable, and even people who will not be heartless on their own behalf can become heartless if that is the only way to protect or feed their children. It's rare, fortunately, and almost all of society is set up to prevent this. And the older and more entrenched you might be in your early socialization, the harder it will be to actually act... but in an environment where ruthlessness is necessary to survival, the survivors will be ruthless.

So, rambling as that was, three ways to get to almost anything. And none of those three ways are separate, they all interact:

Nature, socialization and selection.

  • If you have a genetic gift, you can be very fast.
  • If you are raised in a society where speed is rewarded and slowness punished, your childhood games will be based on developing speed. You'll be faster than someone with similar genetics raised differently.
  • And if all the slow kids die, the surviving kids will be fast.

For fighting or combat or making friends-- some have the right genetic mix of physical and mental attributes. Some learned. And some adapted because they had no choice.

For good things and bad things. That has a lot of implications for us as trainers, voters, people. It's not a single lens, not one size fits all. Do we want to train survivors? Selection doesn't do that, it weeds out the ones who need training most. Do we want to fix crime or any social problem? Eugenics, education and social welfare are three historic attempts to do that, each aimed at one of the three paths.

Growing old in Wales

Fri, 2016-02-19 18:28
Made home-made mayonnaise last night.
Spent five days in Wales with Murray. Five days with an old school British Officer, a Northern Rhodesia vet, a high-level martial artist. And he taught me how to make mayonnaise. And how to tell if an egg is raw or hard boiled. And the proper protocol for how, what and when an officer and a gentleman drinks*. And the elements of chip carving.

He walks with a cane. If confronted, the cane slips behind his back and every element of his face and body language looks like an old man shrinking back in fear, but that cane can come out from either hand, thrusting at at least six finishing targets or swinging.

His students are a little in awe of him. He has to protect his hip and back and he doesn't have the stamina of fifty years ago, so he finishes things very quickly, very efficiently. What he has lost in speed, he more than makes up for in timing. Where he probably used strength as a youth, he now uses precise targeting. At speed and under pressure, that's a product of both training and live-fire experience.

His creative energy is in decorative carving. In under three hours, he made a plaque based on a Welsh love spoon for me to take home to K. It's his meditation and the way he creates. And that's one thing: for the sake of sanity you need to do something creative. We all need to make palpable beautiful or functional things: Write. Paint. Build furniture. Restore cars. Garden. Something. There is an emptiness in your life that grows when you are passive.

We had a nice visit on a three-masted schooner, the Kathleen & May, the last running Welsh-built schooner. Murray's part of the trust restoring the Helen II a "nobby prawner" in Conwy. The sailing world is pretty small, and it was enough connection that the couple restoring the schooner took us on board and showed us around.

There aren't many people with certain backgrounds who are growing old successfully. Murray is one of them.

Create. Learn. Stay Dangerous.

 *Gin and tonic is strictly for lunch. Whiskey and soda at 1800. Wine with dinner. Port with cheese after dinner. If a night cap is necessary, then brandy.
"But I don't like port," I said.
"That's not the point."

I Can't Teach THAT!

Mon, 2016-01-25 22:55
Violence Dynamics 2015 was pretty spectacular. It will be hard to top next year. More on that later, maybe.

During the drive to the airport, Kasey and I were talking about teaching, and teaching teaching, and about people. In any field there are some people that just don't get "it." Whatever "it" is for that field. There are some people who shouldn't be cops. Sometimes because their emotionally vulnerability makes them unable to deal with manipulators, sometimes because their lack of compassion makes them blind... there are hundreds of personality traits that make someone a poor cop.

Some people will never be fighters. I'm not talking about strength or speed, but there are some people that have essential elements of heart that are simply missing.

And some people will never be teachers. There is something missing and they can't command the respect to be listened to. You can force a hundred students to attend, give a simple and important subject and none of the students will make the connection, none of them will listen, none of them will learn.

And in the real world, there appears to be almost an inverse correlation between ability and desire. Probably for reasons of insecurity, many of the people least fit to be cops or teachers want to be cops or teachers. They think the position will give them the respect they can't seem to get on their own. The people who can't fight want to be fighters, hoping the label will make their fear and insecurity go away.

Kasey and I were talking about teaching instructors, and how to deal with the person who desperately wanted the title and was willing to put in the time and do the work, but would never achieve the standard. What do you do? This isn't a bureaucracy. actual life and safety depend on the quality of a teacher in certain fields. At the same time, our internal ethics would demand that we treat all instructor candidates the same...

Fairness, or the actual lives of a generation of students?

That's a question I'm going to dodge, for now.

But here's the cool thing and one of the things I love about people. In certain circumstances, all of that is bullshit. Almost everything I am really good at is stuff that someone I had every right to believe told me I couldn't do.

Yes. Some people can't teach. And usually the honorable thing to do is to tell them that. And some will believe you and quit, and more will refuse to believe you and manage to get into a teaching position and suck for their entire career. And a few, a very few, a tiny number, will say, "Fuck you." And they will leave and on their own they will become extraordinary teachers. They will work their asses off to prove you wrong.

Some people can't fight. And usually the honorable thing to do is to tell them that. And some will believe you and quit, and more will refuse to believe you and manage to get into a force profession and suck for their entire career, and get other people and themselves hurt. And a few, a very few, a tiny number, will say, "Fuck you." And they will leave and on their own they will become extraordinary. They will work their asses off to prove you wrong.

I don't know what it is about that tiny number. I can't pick them out of a crowd. But that incredible diversity of human attitude is one of the things that makes people so damn cool.

Terry's Rules, The Last

Sun, 2016-01-24 03:03
Getting back to this series. Got distracted by travel, training and good questions.

Three more: #9 Think. #10 Do. #11 Don't Overcommit.

Rule#2 was "It's okay to stop and think." This might feel like a repeat. I don't think so. The fact that it's "okay" doesn't mean you will actually do it... but there's more than that. Fighting, counter-assault, hand-to-hand-- whatever you want to call it-- is very much a thing of guts and nerve, visceral, not intellectual. And yet, you have a brain. Use it.

When you have time to think, you think. Absolutely. And the quality of your thinking process allows for an amazing level of possibility. One tiny, basic, obvious thing is "reframing"-- instead of coming up with an answer, can I change the question? Powerful. But even when you don't have time to cognitively weigh all options, that doesn't mean "Be stupid." Your hindbrain is actually a very smart survival mechanism that deals with far more nuance than we give it credit for.

Fight smart. Efficiently. Stay alert to options, escape possibilities, unexpected threats... that's incredibly effective, but realistically, the ability to do that-- to deal with a potentially deadly threat and partition part of your brain to do something else-- requires immense experience. I couldn't do it for maybe the first hundred force incidents. I doubt I even considered the possibility before it happened. The people I know that can do it can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. Terry is absolutely one of them.

But the possibility is there. Your brain is capable of this. The human animal is kind of awesome.

This one is huge. Here's the deal: If you never act you are worthless. You affect the world in no way. You are a waste of time, space and oxygen. It doesn't matter how smart you are or how cool you are or how noble your intentions. If those qualities are never expressed in action, you are nothing. You are worse than nothing. You are a barnacle that increases drag for everyone else.

No one is inherently special. No one deserves to be appreciated just because they happen to be born or they happen to be human. Your value as an entity is based entirely on your actual value to actual other entities. If you want to write fiction that you never share because it makes you happy, that's entirely cool. For you. But if that is ALL you do, you could be shot in the head today and it would not matter one iota to the world.

Right now, check yourself. Over 90% of the people reading this will be nodding in agreement because what I just wrote is simply freakin' obvious. If you are glitching, you need to take a good hard look at your life.

Terry's rules are for high-risk situations, but this one is about life. For the world, the inactive are worthless. But you know what? If you don't "do" if you aren't acting, you aren't really living anyway. This thing you are calling your life is just a pale imitation of the real thing.

Get off the damn couch. Turn off the laptop or the smart phone. Do. Live.

Don't Overcommit.
This is the one I want to argue with. But it's right except for where it's wrong. DON'T overcommit. But don't undercommit either.

There are two classic pieces of advice. Winston Churchill's: "I am addressing myself to the School - surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense." 

And a very wise man I knew called Jake Rens: "When a smart man realizes he's in a hole, he quits digging."

Churchill saves it in the last four words, especially the last two. But it takes immense judgment, sometimes, to distinguish between good sense and fear.

Commitment is important. I think, in a dangerous situations one of the most common and almost universally doomed action is to do anything half-assed. Running is fine, but run with your whole heart. Half running or running and hesitating makes you an easy target. Fighting is dangerous, but fight with your whole heart. Half-fighting is not fighting at all, just struggling. And it doesn't save you, it just excites the bad guy.

Overcommitment. If you overcommit your balance, you are vulnerable. If you overcommit your emotions you are vulnerable... And this is the grr for me, because you can't drop step without vulnerability and overcommitment, and you can't truly love halfway.

The one universal with overcommitment appears to be this, in my opinion: Never double down on stupid. Don't reinforce failure. When you catch yourself doing the wrong thing, don't let your monkey brain con you into doing the wrong thing harder. Always be humble enough to admit when you've screwed it up and change. And adapt. And win.

Knowledgable is not Smart

Thu, 2016-01-14 08:12
Don't confuse knowledgeable with smart. In this field, there are a handful of people I respect who have gathered their knowledge through bitter experience. And none of us are very smart. You don't learn this stuff by being smart, you learn it by being stupid in very specific ways.

"You want a job son? I got one for ya. Basics is being locked, alone and unarmed, in a room with 32-190 violent criminals and maintaining order for eight hours. Yeah, yeah, the media tells you that most are non-violent drug offenders but the reality is that we're so crowded only PVs and person-to-person violent crimes are locked up. What'd ya say?"

No intelligent person goes for that job.

The thing is, though, that there are certain lessons that can only be learned by doing certain things. Dumb things. And the lessons are valuable. On an earlier post, "Agent Cbeppa" wrote:

I've been wondering about a seeming paradox for a while now. 
You write a lot about how ordinary people who have had no experience with violence make up their own (largely false) stories and identities. When people go through a violent experience, they realise what is fact and what was fiction, which sounds like a handy thing to know about yourself.
Conversely, you also advise people to avoid violent situations as much as possible. It's the safest and most sensible thing to do. 
Do you have any explanations that might clear this up for me? Or is there no right answer?

It's not a paradox so much as a side effect of life. Everything involves choices, and every choice you make now removes other choices. Every hour you spend plugged into practicing a language is an hour you can't spend practicing music. Spending six years studying biochemistry is six years not studying physics. I was very happy being single and am very happy being married-- but the happiness centers around different things. Every door you take leaves unopened doors in the background. That's just life. Even if you could have it all, you couldn't grasp a fraction of it.

With the violence stuff, you can choose a long life where your joints work fine and you have good vision in un-gouged eyes and fewer spasms from nerve damage and less arthritis and an ability to sleep through the night... or you can shatter some illusions about violence. You can't have both.

Of all the gods, only Odin was willing to maim himself for knowledge, and that's the choice here. All this-- call it insight or special knowledge or whatever-- comes at a price. I focus on the physical price because that's the easiest for others to see, but the real price? I can count on one hand the people I can really talk to. The books, the blogs, the articles... there's a compulsion to get the information out, but also the knowledge that most can't grasp it, there is simply no touchstone.

So Cbeppa, it's not a paradox, it's an either/or. I advise people to avoid violent situations as much as possible because that way leads to the kind of life that most can handle. But there is a different truth, and that truth, universally, feels more real to the ones who have followed it (probably just a side effect of adrenaline.)

There's one other reason to preach avoidance. Maybe you get new truths through engagement. Maybe your illusions get shattered and you can get new insights or even enlightenment. But only if you live, and hopefully unshattered. I talk about dealing with knives and luck, but if I had been a tiny bit less lucky, I wouldn't be here to talk about it. It's very cool to imagine going to the bad places and learning the cool lessons, but not everyone comes back and of those who do, many are too damaged or adrenalized to remember what happened. Seeking safety, by its nature, is safer than seeking the alternative.

Terry's Rule Part II

Sun, 2016-01-10 05:55

Betray yourself before your people
"Betray" is a hard word, and, for me, this sentiment goes deeper. Substitute sacrifice. Substitute risk. Take the triggering words out of it and it comes down to priorities. My people are more important than me. In the macro, people take certain jobs so that other people don't have to face those realities. At that level, this, to me, means 'do the job.'

But it is also an ordering of priorities. The mission comes first. Then your troops. Then you. The first commander of our CERT had one sterling qualification: Of everyone in our administration he was the only one --the only-- we all believed that, given a choice between sacrificing one of our lives and sacrificing his career, he would sacrifice his career without hesitation. NPNBW, brother.

This one is the hardest for me to explain logically. If the leader has more skill and experience, shouldn't he or she more valuable than his or her troops? I can't break it down logically, but anyone who believes that shouldn't be followed and can't be trusted to lead. It just is.

Last point on this one: Does it contradict the first rule? Not if you see your people as an extension of yourself. But that's a sophistry. So what if it contradicts? I can handle two things in my head.

Be equipped, be prepared, be ready
I despise MacGyver. He inspired a whole generation of people to believe there was something noble about choosing to be poorly equipped. If you refuse to carry the equipment to do the job, you aren't a hero. You are an idiot who is willing to sacrifice innocent people (and yourself) for ego. For image.

Not just equipment. Survival and effectiveness works in a matrix of skill, tools and will. Have the right equipment, but a closet full of high-end toys means jack shit if you don't know how to use them. And the best equipment in the world combined with the best training available also means squat if you don't have the will to access them under pressure.

Acquire the right equipment. Get the best training you can find. But forge and test your will.

You won't ever know what may happen, be ready anyway
One of my pet peeves is that so many people want answers and so many people are willing to sell them, but it is physically impossible to have a good answer when you don't know the question. And you can never know the question because, unless you actively participate, you can't know what kind of bad things will happen to you.

Acknowledging that is another superpower. Or maybe it's just simple maturity. Maybe that's redundant. Here's the deal: Understanding how much you don't know and can't predict gives you an incredible freedom if you aren't scared of it. It shifts training to simply getting better-- at anything and everything-- and away from trying to memorize one more solution to one more imaginary problem. Adaptability is the hallmark of humanity, something we should embrace, and not fear the chaos that makes it so necessary.

Just because no one is ready, ever, to be a father doesn't mean you can't be a good one. One of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever got, was to quit looking for the right girl. "Quit looking for Ms. Right. Work your ass off to be Mr. Right so that she knows you when you finally meet." Quit trying to  be ready. Focus, instead, on being excellent.

Acknowledge emotion, don't be enslaved by it
Are you smart when you're in love? When you're angry? When you're afraid? Of course not, and that goes for every emotion. All of the special snowflakes want to believe that the depth of their caring or their emotional involvement somehow makes them superior, but in actual fact it makes them stupid. Sorry to say it and I know it hurts, but if you're excited about a cause or a group or a party or a candidate, odds are you are wrong. At best, you might be right by accident and despite your emotion-induced stupidity.

And don't pretend for a second that in your special snowflake case you coldly analyzed the facts and got emotional later. Sorry, buttercup. The human mind goes emotion first.

And that's why you always have to acknowledge the emotion. Because it does come first and it is more powerful than reason. (And this is where I tell myself, "Suck it up, Buttercup" because I want so badly to believe that my emotions are fairly weak... but wanting is an emotion itself.)  Emotions aren't necessarily right or effective-- but the righteousness of logic doesn't make it a winner. Emotions win, if you let them. And it takes a lot of skill and a lot of discipline to even recognize when you are enslaved by your emotions, because you will always want to rationalize it. And the smarter you are, the stinkier bullshit you can successfully rationalize.